Hemp symposium tonight in Loveland to cover growing it, selling it and what to expect

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The fact that hemp food products are now sold at mainstream stores such as Costco signals "a wave of cultural acceptance around cannabis," Bronner notes. "The whole controversy is rapidly dissipating. It's like poppy seed bagels. No one associates poppy seed bagels with opium. Industrial hemp is a non-drug agricultural crop.... We've cut out American farmers by refusing to get over our reefer madness, but it's finally happening."

However, both he and Hermann say that in order to really kick-start an industrial hemp industry in the United States, the federal government needs to decriminalize hemp. Since 1970, all cannabis -- of which hemp is a variety, though it contains little to no THC -- has been classified as a Schedule I drug in the federal Controlled Substances Act. Two bills in Congress, one in the House and one in the Senate, seek to do just that, and Bronner and Hermann point out that they're gaining support from both Republicans and Democrats.

Mick McAllister, the communications director for the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, which is sponsoring tonight's event, says the union is also supportive of decriminalizing industrial hemp. However, he says, individual farmers are still wary of the crop given its federal status -- and rightfully so. "We think this is a crop we should be promoting," he says. "Our big concern is that the USDA has said categorically that if you are in violation of federal law, then you are ineligible for USDA programs," including crop insurance.

By ensuring that hemp is legal on all levels, "we could be solving problems for farmers across the state by allowing them to plant a crop that produces seed oil, that produces fiber, that has a high novelty value," he adds. "It doesn't make sense that we can't grow it."

At least one Colorado farmer, Mike Bowman, has announced his intention to grow hemp this spring whether or not it's still illegal at the federal level. Bronner thinks that sort of civil disobedience could be just what hemp needs. "If a farmer were to actually do it, they would call the bluff of the whole charade," he says. Should the federal Drug Enforcement Administration make a fuss, he adds, "it would be so ridiculous that it would...create a firestorm that would also lead to the end of the prohibition of industrial hemp farming."

Tonight's event will be held at The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland from 6 to 9:30 p.m.

Continue to see a flyer for the hemp event, which contains more details.

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar

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